CARES Funds Eyed For Airport Facility

SALISBURY – A public hearing is set regarding a proposal to use federal funding for the design and engineering of a new fuel farm facility at the Salisbury airport.

Last week, Airport Manager Tony Rudy came before the Wicomico County Council seeking a reallocation of CARES Act funding. Specifically, the airport proposes to transfer $150,000 earmarked for automated parking attendant equipment and $49,000 earmarked for operating and maintenance expense reimbursement to fund the design and engineering of an above-ground fuel farm facility.

“Right now, with the available CARES money we have, we thought it would be a good time to put that to use to fund at least the preliminary design and engineering work that needs to be done,” he said.

Rudy noted that Bay Land Aviation currently operates an underground fuel farm to support fueling operations at the airport. As the tanks are more than 30 years old, the company is required to remove them when its lease agreement with the airport expires in 2025.

“At the end of that lease they’re required to sell the fuel farm to the county or someone else,” he explained. “It has been in the ground for over 30 years now, and the airport’s stance is we don’t want to assume that liability not knowing the condition of the tanks … Our goal is to have those tanks removed at that time. But in order to keep the airport operating, obviously we have to have another fuel farm up and running.”

Rudy noted the Airport Master Plan identified the need for a new above-ground fuel farm facility. Since the airport recently determined the purchase of automated parking equipment was not eligible for CARES, he proposed using that $150,000 – along with $49,000 in operating and maintenance reimbursements – to fund the project.

“We wanted to reallocate that money because that equipment purchase is not eligible, and we were going to pay for that equipment by using unspent fiscal year 2021 funds,” he said. “We would then be short $49,000, which we would be pulling out of operational expenses in our fourth year of CARES Act allocations.”

When asked if the removal of the tanks was included in the $199,000 design and engineering cost, Rudy said it wasn’t.

“The removal of the tanks is Bay Land’s responsibility,” he replied.

Councilman Joe Holloway questioned Bay Land’s lease agreement.

“Do they not have the option to renew the lease?” he asked.

Rudy noted that they did.

“But at that time we would like to have the tanks out of the ground because of their age and concerns for possible environmental contamination,” he said.

The council agreed to move forward with a public hearing Jan. 4 on the proposed grant reallocation.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.